253. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State1

6140. Subj: Letter From King Khalid to President Carter.

1. Foreign Minister Prince Saud handed to Ambassador letter from King Khalid to President Carter on August 21. Following is Embassy translation.

2. Begin text: It gives me pleasure to send this letter to Your Excellency within the framework of continuous cooperation between our two friendly countries and of our common efforts aiming at supporting the forces of moderation in the area in their opposition to active Communist movements therein, a matter which receives considerable attention from our country in particular and from the free world in general.

3. There is no doubt that you, Mr President, fully realize the extent of Communist concentration in the south of the Arabian Peninsula as well as of what Russia, Cuba, and East Germany are doing in Aden where they obviously enjoy hegemony and influence. We feel certain also that you are fully aware of what those countries are actively doing, through the Aden regime, in pursuit of their objectives which go beyond the borders of Southern Yemen. These greedy objectives must be only too clear to Your Excellency as they use North Yemen as only a passageway leading to their real target.

4. Mr President, you may agree with me that at a time when we are both striving jointly to limit, indeed to put an end to, the Communist presence in Aden, we must need pay attention to and be careful about not losing other strategic areas like North Yemen to the Communist expansion aims in the Arabian Peninsula. You may also share with me the feeling of concern towards the highly active Russian-Cuban role in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula which sees North Yemen as only a first step.

5. Proceeding from this background the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has done all in its power to attract North Yemen into the fold of the forces of moderation. We have done this so effectively that we can now say that the present regime in North Yemen is ready to dispense with the Russian arms which North Yemen used to import from Russia and consequently to do away with the services of the Russian experts as well as to put an end to the Russian presence in the country as [Page 788] soon as North Yemen is provided with convincing alternatives by the moderate and friendly countries headed by the United States of America.

6. In welcoming such modest alternatives the Government of North Yemen will naturally look at the extent to which Russia is arming the regime in Aden from both the quantitative and qualitative aspects. North Yemen will quite naturally have to do this in view of the fact that Aden is the center which is exporting aggression and subversive principles into the rest of the Yemen. This consideration is pressing the Government of North Yemen into emphasizing their needs in arms, military equipment, and training to a degree which will ward off the expected danger, made so acute by the status of military preparedness of the potential enemy. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in this context cannot by itself match the power of that adversary nor respond fully to the needs of North Yemen in this field.

7. The responsible officials in the Government of North Yemen feel increasingly the need to have military alternatives, adequate in quantity and quality, provided to them because of what they quite rightly anticipate the Soviet Union will do the moment North Yemen turns away and ceases to seek arms and military equipment from it. The responsible North Yemeni officials anticipate that the Soviet Union will immediately stop providing them with any spare parts or any supportive equipment compatible with the Russian arms and military hardware which the Soviet Union has been providing North Yemen. Such a development would inevitably render those arms and hardware items virtually non-existent. This is what precisely happened to Egypt and Somalia.

8. Thus we find that the need of the Government of North Yemen and its desire to acquire such quantities of American arms and equipment as would (a) be commensurate with its fear of Southern Yemen supported by international Communism, (b) compensate North Yemen for the arms and equipment it would otherwise have received from Russian sources, and (c) satisfy North Yemen’s armed forces and their young Yemeni leaders. All these considerations have their military, security, political, and psychological considerations. This is especially so if we bear in mind that at a time when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is doing its utmost to convince North Yemen to replace its Russian arms and military equipment with American supplies, we find that the Soviet Union is offering North Yemen new military aid including aircraft, naval vessels and tanks in quantities which the Kingdom alone is incapable of matching.

9. The Government of North Yemen has submitted a list containing its urgent requests and requirements which we jointly might not be [Page 789] able to respond to in the short term.2 Therefore Your Excellency may find it agreeable that the United States of America would join the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in financing, on a 50–50 basis, what is possible to provide North Yemen with military equipment and training, within the framework of the U.S. foreign military assistance program. This would constitute Your Excellency’s and your government’s contribution towards driving away the danger threatening North Yemen and the region. It would come also as an element unifying our efforts toward stemming the Communist tide and protecting the common interests of the free world. I need not at this juncture underscore that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would be prepared to participate in doing anything that might be calculated to convince Congress and American public opinion (of the need for all this) in any way, similar to our participation in the F–15 case.

10. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia believes that within this framework and at the present state it would suffice that we offer North Yemen the following:

(A) Twelve F–5E’s with the arms, ammunition, and equipment necessary and pertaining thereto.

(B) Two transport aircraft (C–130’s).

(C) Sixty-four tanks (M–50’s).

(D) One hundred armored personnel carriers (M–113’s).

(E) The necessary technical support and training personnel for these arms and types of equipment including an American military mission consisting of the necessary experts and advisers.

11. I would be very pleased to receive from Your Excellency a reply indicating that this suggestion of mine meets with your approval and emphasizing your desire to work towards its implementation for the realization of the common objectives which serve the interest of both our countries, the stability of the region, the upholding of the forces of moderation and the safeguarding of the interest of the free world.

12. Please accept, Your Excellency, my warmest greetings and sincerest wishes for your continued good health, well being and success.

/s/ Khalid Bin abd al-Aziz al Saud,

Taif, 17 Ramadan 1396 A. H., corresponding to August 21, 1978. End text.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 67, Saudi Arabia: 6–12/78. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Printed from a copy that was received in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 251.